Garlic is one – if not – the most versatile seasoning agent in the food world!
A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots.
The edible bulb, or “head” grows below the ground. The bulb consists of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchment like membrane.
Types of Garlic
In the United States, there are three major types of garlic;
Fresh garlic is available at your local supermarket year round.
Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves.
Do NOT buy those tubes you see at the store in the refrigerator section.
Do NOT buy the pre-peeled garlic you see in the zip lock pouches, usually in the produce department – unless you want your entire refrigerator smelling like raw garlic, plus, it is just not as flavorful as freshly peeled garlic.
Refrigerated storage causes a decline in distinctively garlicky flavor and an increase in a more generic onion flavor.
Properly stored – see my video – unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, although, I use mine way before that deadline.
I never break cloves from the head, until I am ready to use them in a recipe.
Typically, crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole.
Dehydrated garlic flakes, aka instant garlic, are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using.
When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder.
Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and an “anti-caking” agent.
Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Although convenient, never use these in your home cooking, as they are a poor flavor substitute, especially when fresh garlic is so inexpensive.
The easiest method for growing garlic is to break a “head” or bulb into cloves, plant them out individually, and in about nine months, each one should have grown into a new head of its own.
Garlic likes full sun and well-drained soil.
Soil is too wet = bulb will rot
Soil is too heavy = small, flavorless bulb
Best sown in the fall for harvesting the following summer. Garlic sown in the spring will grow, but probably not very large.
Cold growing conditions produce a more intense garlic flavor.
The only maintenance needed is to keep the weeds down and the soil moist. Never over-water the plants.
You can harvest, as soon as the leaves turn yellow and fade. For garlic planted in the fall, this will be late spring or early summer.
For spring-planted garlic, harvest between midsummer and early fall.
Recipes using garlic: